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The Channeling (Ways to reach your Muse)
The Three Levels (Part 2)
By Shaman Sean
1999-2001 Shaman Sean. All Rights Reserved. Used By Permission.

Hello again. Now if you haven't read my last article: The Three Levels (Part 1) you will be really lost reading this one! If you have read my last article, welcome back!

Here's where we left off last time: Creating your songs to be both Level 1 & Level 2 accessible actually takes different songwriting skills. Before I get into each, I would like to further clarify the levels by giving some examples.

My first example will be the band, Bush. Now in case they read this article, I want them to know that I've played their CDs so much (especially Razorblade Suitcase & Sixteen Stone) that I'm actually worn out on them. All the songwriting ideas on them rock! But I'm going to use them as an example of songwriting that only personally takes me to Level 1. (Which isn't necessarily bad.)

To write songs like the ones on those albums, much of their talent is in the music itself. The lyrics don't seem as important to them as it seems to other bands. Look at how well they did! So there's proof that you can write extremely good songs on Level 1 alone.

Some other good examples of Level 1 would be the Sex Pistols & Nirvana. [Now the Sex Pistols communicated their Level 3 in another way besides the song itself in many cases. (i.e. at their concerts, etc.) People knew what they were about. They knew their Level 3 without hearing the songs.]

In my opinion, what I've found is that to be good at writing Level 1, you need to be very familiar with how to put songs together and create moods without the lyrics. Then also be familiar with how different phrases and words create different moods, and use those words to accent the music. And use lyrical techniques like rhyming, etc. to also accent their impact.

Some people, however, can write a good song in Level 1 without much familiarity. They honestly can just throw good buzz phrases together and use a common progression and then rely on the other aspects of the music industry to sell them.

To me, I could use many examples to describe Level 2. With the exception of a few, all of the most famous bands live in Level 2 while also fulfilling Level 1. [Now before I get into them, realize that one band may take a certain listener to Level 2 while leaving another listener behind in Level 1. My goal is not to classify bands here, but instead to try and help you reach your muse.]

The point in Level 2 is seriously about lyrics alone. Can the listener actually receive a personal meaning out of one of your songs? Do you even care? Maybe you don't. There's nothing that says every song should mean something deep to someone. It all depends on the effect you want.

If your song takes someone to Level 2, it is partially due to the specific listener. So there are factors that you cannot control. But there are some things you can do to make it more probable, or less probable. (For instance, If I just threw a bunch of words that rhymed well together but in no way could be linked together for meaning; the chances of the listener getting to Level 2 with the song could be reduced.)

Here's something that I've found works very well for other people and for me: If you start at Level 1, when writing, (i.e. you're writing catch words and phrases to go with music but don't really have a meaning); you should really connect with what you have before revamping it for Level 2. You should really discover your personal meaning.

Once you've found your meaning (i.e. Level 3) you can then change what you have on Level 1 and move it more towards Level 3 lyrically. In the end, what you will have, (if you did a good job), is a song that is Level 2 accessible to the listener. But you will never really know until the rubber hits the road (i.e. the listeners ear).

One of the things that I do to test the song lyrically, is to not tell the rest of the band the meaning when I introduce it. I see if they can connect with it. I'll give them the words if they want, but I will not tell them my Level 3. Then later after some time, I will ask them if it means anything to them; then I will tell them mine, if they still want to know.

Another thing that I've done is to study performing arts, drama, psychology of communication, and other peoples' songwriting theories. All that stuff is based off of observation usually. So I try to learn from other peoples' observations (whether they are right or wrong conclusions, you can still learn something.)

In closing, I'd like to remind you that the lyrics don't have to connect to the listeners' intellectual brains to get them to Level 1, they just have to make them feel. Level 2 is more involved in a personal meaning to go with that feeling that they had. Again, you cannot control the listeners' Level 2, you will have no way of knowing what they will get from it. But you can write so they can reach Level 2 easier. And that will take much trial and error for you to develop a familiarity with. So keep trial-ling and error-ing, and you'll get there. Don't stop learning.

Well, in a round-about way, I may have helped you by giving you this technique. I hope that it works for you. It's only one technique though. It's only one perception. But when you're having a hard time with the Muse, maybe it will keep you writing; or give you a different perspective to get you out of a rut.

Some may wonder, "what does all of this have to do with the Muse?" My answer: "Everything." Levels 1-3 are all dealing with the Muse. The Muse to the listener and the muse to the songwriter. Feel free to ask me any questions if you need any clarifications about something I've said here. Also I would like to re-extend my invitation to write me with any topics you'd like me to discuss or problems that you may have. I took an unexpected break for a few months; but I'm BACK!

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